Hiking along Squaw Valley Creek Trail near McCloud CA (Siskiyou County) in April, Leonard and I noticed some beautiful pink flowers next to the water at the base of a steep slope. We climbed down and found a plant that resembled an “alien” species worthy of a science fiction story. (“The Little Shop of Horrors?”)
The banks of Squaw Valley Creek, both above and below the water line, were covered with a mat or carpet of thick, fleshy, scaly, intertwined rhizomes. In places the rhizomes resembled a mass of writhing snakes, although they did not move. At the ends of the rhizomes reddish tongues seemed to flick forward. These “tongues” developed into the petioles (stems) of basal leaves or scapes (leafless flower stalks). The inflorescences were too pretty to belong to the mass of coarse brownish-black rhizomes.
Indian rhubarb (Darmera peltata) is an acaulescent plant, that is, stemless or essentially so. The stems of the leaves and the stalks of the flowers arise directly from the rhizomes.
Indian rhubarb is a native perennial that grows along fast-moving streams in lower montane and subalpine forests below 6,000 feet. It can be found in Oregon, California and Utah.
A member of the Saxifrage Family, Indian rhubarb is the only species in its genus. Previously the scientific name of D peltata was Peltiphyllum pelatum. Umbrella plant is another colloquial name for Indian rhubarb.
Karl Darmer (1843 – 1918), a Berlin horticulturist, is honored by the genus name. The species designation, peltata, means shield-shaped. Both the species name and the common name, umbrella plant, refer to the large mature leaves.
My next post will introduce Indian rhubarb flowers and leaves.